Conservation officers stepping up enforcement on snowmobile trails
Officials say request came from P.E.I. Snowmobile Association members frustrated with lack of compliance
Provincial conservation officers have stepped up patrols on Island snowmobile trails after receiving complaints from members of the P.E.I. Snowmobile Association.
Wade MacKinnon, manager of investigation and enforcement with the Department of Justice and Public Safety, said compliance with regulations around snowmobile and trail use is low, and it irks those who do follow the rules.
"Their [P.E.I. Snowmobile Association] members are frustrated with the lack of compliance, they are paying for passes, registering their machines and they have a number of people using these trails that their membership is paying for grooming and people are taking advantage of it," he said.
MacKinnon said in the past six weeks, officers have conducted 271 stops and 35 violations have resulted.
He said violations included unregistered machines, not having a trail permit, prohibited drivers and people operating snowmobiles while impaired.
He said most of those resulted in summary offence tickets being handed out but one driver was given 30 days in jail for operating a motor vehicle while prohibited by court order.
'It's just tradition'
MacKinnon believes that part of the problem is that historically, the rules haven't been too heavily enforced.
I believe the current penalties in place are adequate, it's just a matter of us being out there to catch them.- Wade MacKinnon, Department of Justice and Public Safety
"I think it's just tradition," he said.
"There hasn't been a whole lot of active enforcement on snowmobiles, but we have increased that and will continue to increase it this winter."
According to MacKinnon, 32 of the 35 violations were in Prince County, where riding conditions have been best, but he said patrol locations will change depending on where the most snow has accumulated.
He said in recent years, the P.E.I. Snowmobile Association successfully lobbied government for stiffer penalties for offenders and believes that an increased presence on the trails is what's needed.
"I believe the current penalties in place are adequate, it's just a matter of us being out there to catch them," MacKinnon said.
According to the P.E.I. Snowmobile Association, approximately 2,200 permits have been purchased this season. The association says that's down about 500 from three years ago and estimate several hundred — potentially as many as 1,000 people — are operating snowmobiles on the Island without a permit.